For many of us, we never think twice about picking up a controller to play the newest game to come out on the market. Buy your game, put it into the system, hit play. But for a growing demographic of players, this is not possible because of physical or mental complications. For over a decade now, the AbleGamers Charity has made great strides for those with disabilities by reviewing the usability of video games, advocating for accessibility with all games, and giving grants to those in the community creating new technology to help those in need enjoy the games they love.
This year at PAX, the non-profit charity takes a step further by creating The AbleGamers Fellowship, a scholarship what will not only create a path for one young developer, but one that others will follow.
Try to imagine losing your sight or the use of your hand; think about what life would be like with nerve damage or even being colorblind. For many gamers, they don’t have to imagine these scenarios, but life without gaming and a connection to a larger community is simply unthinkable. The AbleGamers Charity works with both the developers and the public to help those wanting to get into gaming and the virtual world. Often times, games only require little changes to make them accessible to thousands of other people wanting to take part in the same activities we so often take for granted.
“One of the things I noticed in all of this was the absence of a push to engage and employ people with disabilities,” stated Mark Barlet, founder and the executive director of AbleGamers Charity. “Disability knows no demographic boundaries, but people with disabilities can offer a very different view of the world, especially in technology, than other groups.”
The Fellowship takes their work to the next level by empowering someone with a disability to become the next great developer. The chosen student in their 3rd or 4th year of undergrad or taking their master’s program will receive $10,000 dollars to help pay for their education in game accessibility. The scholarship targets—but is not limited to—people with disabilities looking to help others enjoy games. More than just money, the AbleGamers Fellowship looks to also mentor those pursuing a career in game development. Partners like Trion Worlds, the people behind ArcheAge and Defiance, alongside the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will be there to help out the budding developer find a place in the ever expanding gaming community.
Getting one advocate for game accessibility into the development community is just the tip of the iceberg for Mark and the rest of the team at AbleGamers. They want to change how developers think about their audience. “Game Accessibility is one of those things you don’t think about until you, or someone close to you, needs it. When people with disabilities are part of the team, every team member learns, and over time, those bits of knowledge are taken to new teams, and new games, and more and more content is accessible out of the box.”
Much like Frodo taking care of the ring, this Fellowship also asks for a commitment from whoever takes on the task. The student will need to create a case study about gaming accessibility as a part of their final project that AbleGamers will be able to use for the larger community. You’ll need to be active in your social medi as well as keeping in touch with the charity to let them know how things are moving along.
In short, you will need to become a part of the community. This may seem like an easy task, but taking on such responsibility to step into the spotlight should not be taken lightly. But such bravery will be rewarded when you find one of the most dedicated and welcoming communities around. I am personally excited for anyone who gets to be a part of this and am in awe of The AbleGamers Charity’s ability to not only empower those they are looking to help, but to help build a path for others looking to create the next great video game and a community supports them every step of the way.
To find out more about the AbleGamers Fellowship or to apply, visit their website and see if you have what it takes to be the future of the gaming industry.
Feature Image Credit: AbleGamers/Facebook